The SDSU Extension Master Gardener Program Back »

Do you like to garden? Do you like fresh, home-grown, nutritious vegetables and fruits? Do you want to learn more about how to take better care of your lawn, trees or shrubs? Are you curious about how plants grow and what they need to grow and be healthier? Do you want to make new friends that are also interested in these things? Do you like to teach and help people? If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, then perhaps becoming a South Dakota Master Gardener is the right thing for you to do to satisfy those desires.

Becoming a Master Gardener

In order to become a Master Gardener, you must complete a series of online classes as well as four hands-on sessions. Each year several locations are chosen to host the training. In 2015 training was held in Watertown, Mitchell and Hot Springs/Custer. Since 2013, the majority of the training is offered online so you can get the training in the comfort of your own home in a very open schedule with the first sections available usually starting the first part of May. In addition, four, day-long, hands-on sessions give trainees the opportunity to learn skills such as planting, pruning, plant propagation, along with plant and pest identification by seeing and doing. These are held in each of the training sites. Participants may choose from each of the locations for their hands-on training. Once trainees complete the online training, hands-on sessions and complete a final test, they become Master Gardener Interns – 64 new interns were trained this year. Finally each intern must complete a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service within the next two years to earn their title of South Dakota Master Gardener.

What Master Gardeners Do?

Master Gardeners work in their community to promote and teach gardening. Opportunities include writing articles, giving talks, working at fair booths, helping in community and school gardens, teaching and answering garden questions. The training gives a well-rounded education preparing them to help their communities. Currently there are about 800 active Master Gardeners and interns across the state, many of which are also active in one or more of the 19 area groups of Master Gardeners.  In 2015 the SDSU Extension Master Gardeners contributed more than 13,000 hours of volunteer service, worth over $246,000 to South Dakota individuals, families and communities.

South Dakota Local Master Gardener Groups*

Group Name
Contact Phone
Prairie Partners
Aberdeen, SD
Mary Stehly 605.994.2314
Perkins County
Bison, SD
Geraldine Peck 605.390.1533
Brookings, SD
Emily Ravenscroft 605.651.4634
Harding Co.
Buffalo, SD
Mary Tarter 605.797.4487  
Custer Co.
Custer, SD
Norma Young 605.673.4821
Marge McColley 605.673.4884
Fall River
Hot Springs, SD
Helen Spitzer 605.745.4454
Bonnie Ruggieri 605.745.6049
Huron, SD
Carol Anderson 605.266.2824
GR-RO Masters
Milbank, SD
Holli Seehafer 605.432.6502
Dakota Prairie
Miller, SD
Janet Johnson 605.853.3544
Mitchell, SD
Deanne Larson 605.996.3045
Mobridge, SD Shirley Masteller 605.762.3411
South Central
Mission, SD
Noma Sazama 605.856.4575
Prairie Potters
Pierre, SD
Bev Mickelson 605.224.7132
Pennington Co.
Rapid City, SD
Sheila Hillberry 605.348.1322
Minnehaha Co.
Sioux Falls, SD
Margie Beeck 605.359.4096
Northern Hills MGs
Spearfish, SD
Sue W. White 605.645.4093
Coteau Prairie MGs
Watertown, SD
Diane Knutson 605.881.7348
Garden Gate
Winner, SD
Nichi Brinda 605.842.0499
Missouri Valley MGs
Yankton, SD
Carol Hauger 605.660.4763
*Current as of July 2015

Tracking & Reporting Volunteer Time

Master Gardeners should keep track of the time they spend volunteering, as well as the number of individuals they interact completing those volunteer activities. Those records are submitted to David Graper via mail or email, at this point, to be compiled for state and federal reports. It is hoped that soon an online reporting system will be in place to report hours, contact numbers, as well as Civil Rights reporting information.

Training Costs

Training costs are $160 with 50 volunteer hours within two years of training completion. A non-volunteer training option is also available for $500, however, these participants will not be considered Master Gardeners upon completion.

Training sites for 2016 have not yet been determined. But if you or a group of individuals are interested in becoming Master Gardeners, contact David Graper. For more information check out the SDSU Extension Master Gardeners Facebook page.

Program History

The South Dakota Master Gardener program began back in 1985 when Dean Martin organized the first classes. When Dean retired in 1988, training was put on hold until 1993 when training resumed. Each year training is scheduled to occur in different locations across the state so that individuals from all over the state will have an opportunity to take the training at a site relatively close to home. The majority of the training is offered online, making it convenient for more people to participate in the training and only have to make arrangements to be away from home or work for four days to participate in the hands-on training sessions.

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